ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – From the St. Louis Area Diaper Bank to the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. Charlin Hughes is now spearheading the new Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program (LEAD) in which social workers will help law enforcement with low-level criminals.
Hughes said helping others isn’t just her passion, it’s her calling. About six years ago, she went back to school for her master’s in social work.
Hughes then worked for Beyond Housing and most recently was the director of outreach and community engagement for the Diaper Bank.
Hughes heard Wesley Bell wanted to address opioid usage and, instead of criminalizing low-level offenders, get them help. She said it was something she wanted to be a part of.
Bell was able to hire Hughes with the help of a $1.2 million grant.
“The purpose of it is to divert people to services that can assist them instead of taking them into the criminal justice system,” Hughes said.
It will be up to the officers if they think the low-level offender should go through the justice system or be referred to LEAD. If referred to LEAD, Hughes and her team of four other social workers connect the individual with community resources and guide them through the process.
“I hope that with this program we stop asking what’s wrong with you, and begin to ask what happened to you,” Hughes said.
Bell said law enforcement departments are already asking to be included in this program. But before they can take on everyone, LEAD will launch a pilot program with two police departments at the end of June.